In light of the Pope’s recent decision to step down, I have been revisiting my all-consuming rage over the Church’s conspiracy of enabling and protecting child rapists within its midst. I’ve re-read a number of articles that came out in early 2010 when a new rash of particularly disgusting threads of this hellacious quilt came to light. What strikes me today, nearly three years later, is that so little justice has been dispensed.
Let’s be clear about something first and foremost. The scandal to which I refer is not the actual rape of children by individual priests (though that is scandal enough), but rather the decision by members of the Church hierarchy to cover up these crimes, transfer known rapists to new parishes they knew would be awash in fresh victims, and openly and unabashedly prioritize the reputation of the Church above the welfare of children.
Here’s a portion of a document that then Cardinal Ratzinger sent to the Oakland Diocese regarding child rapist Father Stephen Kiesle:
This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favour of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the universal church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.
Keep in mind that the “petitioner” whose young age Ratzinger was so anxious about, was not one of the victims Kiesle tied up and raped (who in this particular case were eleven and thirteen) but rather Father Kiesle himself who was the tender age of 38.
Kiesle went on to rape again and again and again.
It strains the boundaries of my humanity to comprehend how such a moral calculus was made, how Cardinal Ratzinger could have so brazenly disregarded the welfare of children whom he had to know would fall victim to this serial sadist.
But what depresses me anew is the fact that Ratzinger is now resigning voluntarily from his position as Pope, rather than being dragged from that office in disgrace to face prosecution in any number of jurisdictions. I, like some of the journalists who actually exposed these crimes, was naively under the impression that bringing them to light would motivate people and their legal representatives to take action.
I was wrong.
The truth doesn’t matter. It is merely raw material to be molded and shaped according to our emotional needs. Or ignored if that suits us. We are not, as I once naively believed, a truth-seeking species. We are a comfort-seeking species. And for reasons I can’t fully fathom we are more comfortable with continuing to endanger children than we are with bringing their institutional victimizers to justice. We don’t even bother to dispute the facts. (They are indisputable.) We simply turn away.
Shame on all of us.